Understanding Helmet Therapy For Plagiocephaly

Understanding Helmet Therapy For Plagiocephaly | District Speech Therapy Services Speech Language Pathologist Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Your baby’s head is rapidly growing.

Newborn babies have soft, bony plates in their skull that gradually harden over time.

A band of tissues called “sutures” connects these plates and protects your baby’s brain as it grows and develops.

Eventually, as your baby’s head grows, these plates slowly join together.

However, before this occurs, babies are at risk of developing a flat spot on their skull referred to as “plagiocephaly”.

Plagiocephaly may occur for a number of reasons.

For instance, some babies develop plagiocephaly during birth as they travel through the birth canal.

Others develop the condition after sleeping in the same position for a prolonged period.

Regardless of the cause, plagiocephaly physical therapy can help correct this issue.

Plagiocephaly isn’t a serious medical concern, but it can cause permanent head malformation if left untreated.

Additionally, children with untreated plagiocephaly are at risk for life long social challenges, such as bullying, low self esteem, and other mental health challenges.

At District Speech, we’re also a physical therapy clinic for children in DC, and we can help.

What Is Helmet Therapy?

Helmet therapy is a prescribed treatment for children with plagiocephaly.

Over time, it corrects the shape of your baby’s head and encourages proper skull growth.

It’s also commonly known as “cranial orthosis” or “helmet orthosis”.

The treatment involves a helmet that’s specifically made with the shape of your child’s skull in mind.

It’s crafted using your baby’s head measurements and requires frequent adjustments to accommodate their head growth.

The helmet is firm on the outside and soft on the inside.

This design allows for maximum comfort as your baby sleeps, plays, and participates in other daily activities.

Helmet therapy applies constant pressure to your baby’s skull.

This allows growth in the flattened areas of your baby’s skull while restricting growth elsewhere.

Babies undergoing helmet therapy can still sleep in whichever position is most comfortable for them.

The helmet provides cushioning and prevents uneven head growth.

What To Expect From Helmet Therapy

Many parents are concerned about the specifics of helmet therapy.

For instance, some parents worry that the helmet will cause pain or discomfort.

Others worry about the potential long term effects of wearing a helmet for months on end.

But for the most part, both of these worries are completely unfounded.

The helmets used in helmet therapy are made for comfort and don’t cause any long term effects.

So, what exactly should you expect from helmet therapy?

First, your physical therapist will measure the shape of your baby’s head.

They use these measurements to design a custom fitted helmet for your child.

No two babies have the exact same head shape.

Thus, babies shouldn’t share helmets; the therapy will only work if the helmet perfectly fits your baby’s head.

Your child’s helmet will require frequent adjustments to reflect their head growth and development.

You can clean the helmet once daily during bath time.

This will help prevent any skin irritation or odors from building up.

How Old Should A Child Be To Begin Helmet Therapy?

Like with many pediatric therapies, early intervention therapy is important.

Helmet therapy provides the best results the earlier you begin therapy.

Therefore, you’ll want to initiate the process as soon as you notice possible plagiocephaly in your child.

Babies under 12 months have soft skulls that are more easily manipulated.

By approximately 14 months of age, their skull begins hardening to the point where helmet therapy is ineffective.

Thus, the earlier your child begins helmet therapy, the better the outcome.

How Long Does Therapy Take?

The duration of helmet therapy depends on a variety of factors.

For instance, the severity of your child’s plagiocephaly plays a significant role in treatment duration.

Children with more pronounced plagiocephaly typically require more time with their helmets.

Additionally, babies who begin therapy earlier generally require their helmet for shorter durations.

In their first few months of life, your baby’s skull grows rapidly.

This means that helmet therapy can correct skull growth in less time.

Your child’s care team will closely monitor their progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Babies who still require treatment after outgrowing their first helmets may require a second one.

How Often Does My Baby Need To Wear Their Helmet?

Your baby will need to wear their helmet 23 hours a day, every day.

This might seem drastic, but it’s important to remember that a properly fitted helmet doesn’t cause any discomfort or pain for your baby.

You can remove it for an hour each day during bath time.

This also gives you an opportunity to clean and sanitize the helmet.

Are There Other Treatment Options For Babies With Plagiocephaly?

Not every baby with plagiocephaly will require helmet therapy.

Mild cases of plagiocephaly are commonly corrected through physical therapy.

At District Speech, we have a special interest in helping babies overcome their plagiocephaly challenges.

We can provide stretching and strengthening exercises aimed at improving plagiocephaly symptoms.

These exercises are commonly used for babies with torticollis.

RELATED: Physical Therapy for Torticollis

This is a condition which causes an unnatural twist in one side of your baby’s neck.

Approximately 20% of babies with plagiocephaly will also have torticollis.

We also commonly recommend at home remedies for babies with mild plagiocephaly.

For instance, tummy time is an excellent opportunity for preventing plagiocephaly from getting worse.

This activity helps relieve some pressure on your baby’s head while simultaneously encouraging neck muscle development.

Constant positional changing is another important aspect.

Frequently changing your baby’s positions can encourage them to turn away from their flattened side.

For instance, you can practice breastfeeding from both sides and place your baby in a different sleeping position every night.

Finally, holding your baby as often as possible can make a huge difference.

Sitting in a car seat or baby carrier for prolonged periods can encourage plagiocephaly development.

Therefore, cuddle time is an important preventative factor.

In moderate or severe plagiocephaly cases, or if your baby isn’t responding to the above techniques, helmet therapy is the best option.

Speak to the staff at District Speech today to find out whether your baby might benefit from helmet therapy.

What Is Helmet Therapy? | District Speech Therapy Services Speech Language Pathologist Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Can Helmet Therapy Be Used For Other Conditions?

Helmet therapy isn’t just for plagiocephaly.

In fact, it can help with a number of issues.

For instance, helmet therapy is used in all kinds of positional skull deformities, such as brachycephaly and NICUcephaly.

These are both conditions with associated skull shape changes.

Craniosynostosis is another condition commonly corrected through helmet therapy.

This condition pushes together the skull plates in your baby’s head.

Subsequently, the brain is unnaturally forced out into other parts of the skull.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

Are you noticing a flat spot on your baby’s head?

Do they sleep in a single position every single night?

If so, your baby might benefit from helmet therapy.

At District Speech, we can guide you through the process of helmet therapy and answer any questions you might have.

Book your appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/districtspeech

District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.